The insidious impact of internet porn. by Rose Laing MD (2016)

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By Rose LaingWednesday 12 October 2016, 10:45AM

Christchurch GP Rose Laing finds it is time to add internet porn addiction to her checklist of pathologies

The checklists of patholo­gies we should be thinking about in primary care seem to get longer by the day, but I am adding a new one to mine – internet porn addic­tion and its consequences.

I thought I knew about the dangers of pornogra­phy. I had talked about it many months ago with the teenager in the context of a friend of his, a previously stellar student, who had a problem, was staying up half the night online and was starting to fail at school.

We had discussed the differences between porn, ordinary sex and making love, as well as the whole objectification line of argu­ment, and he had told me most of his friends consid­ered porn was for losers.

Mother was content with this but things change, and now my son tells me most of his friends regularly ac­cess porn and feel unwilling, or even unable, to stop. He is, rather bravely, doing a school speech on why porn is bad for everyone and has shown me the talks online that he has used as research to support his argument.

They make disturbing viewing.

On top of this, porn remains an abusive, exploit­ative industry which makes huge money for a few, and destroys the lives of many.

It is so easy for kids (and I do mean kids; US studies suggest that 90 per cent of children have viewed porn by the time they are age 12) to click on sites that take them into a violently distorted view of human sexuality.

Parents who check the histories of their children’s browsing can easily be fooled by sites that don’t leave a trace. It is simple to navigate from the entry-level porn sites to increasingly fetishist and violent sites as “ordinary” porn loses its allure.

Porn taps into the same dopamine-release axis as many hard-core drugs. As in other addictions, tolerance and salience develop, so that searching for the increas­ingly exotic thrill becomes the norm; available at a keystroke on a mobile phone.

Side effects can include depression, anxiety, ADHD-like presentations, and erec­tile dysfunction is common.

Even for those who are not addicted, porn provides a disturbing role as a sex education tool for teens. The entire focus of porn is genital/orifice contact. Porn stars don’t speak, except to issue instructions, don’t caress, kiss, relax or laugh together. How does watching this kind of mate­rial set up young men or women for any kind of intimacy?

Disastrous impact on early sexual experiences

Teacher friends tell me that porn im­pacts disastrous­ly on the early forays into sexual contact between teens.

Young women are repelled or traumatised by what they seem to be expected to tolerate, and many young men are more bewildered than ever by the difference between what they think sex should be and the need for emotional intimacy from their partners.

On top of this, porn remains an abusive, exploit­ative industry which makes huge money for a few, and destroys the lives of many.

I still haven’t quite worked out how to bring my new awareness of this problem into a general practice context without frightening off patients, but it is certainly something I would consider raising with a young (or not so young) man who presents with depression, insomnia, anxiety or rela­tionship issues.

Read more blogs from Rose Laing at www.nzdoctor.co.nz